“IS this how the Philippines should deal with its powerhouse neighbor?”
Former President Fidel V. Ramos raised this question in 2011 following conflicting reports on the dates of President Benigno S. Aquino’s state visit to China.
But back then, relations between the Philippines and China were still in good shape. Hu Jintao was then the Chinese president. China was in fact the first to invite Aquino to a state visit soon after his inauguration in June 2010. “It means they were eager to enhance relations with the Philippines,” says former UN Security Council President Lauro Baja Jr. “We should have taken advantage of that.”
But in less than four years, relations quickly went from “good” to “seriously damaged.”
What went wrong?
Aquino had barely warmed his seat when his administration faced its first major challenge: the Manila hostage crisis in August 2010 resulted in the death of 9 people, 8 of them Chinese from Hong Kong.
In March 2011, 3 Filipino drug mules were executed in China despite appeals made by Aquino for a commutation of their sentence.
Yet these incidents did little damage, if at all, to relations of the two countries. “The case of drug mules, the hostage-taking incident, these are police enforcement situations with almost no foreign policy content,” says Baja.